Netball: Singapore clinch 47-45 win over Ireland in Nations Cup thriller

Singapore co-captain Toh Kai Wei in action during the Nations Cup against Ireland. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE – With 10 minutes to go, the Republic were trailing 43-37 in their Nations Cup opener against Ireland on Sunday and the OCBC Arena was palpitating.

Feeding off the energy of more than 800 spectators and their teammates on the bench who were yelling their heads off, the Singapore netball team fired themselves up and mounted a comeback.

The world No. 30 side played their best fast-tempo netball, characterised by short and swift movements, to wrest a 45-44 lead with just three minutes left before sealing a 47-45 win over the Irish, who are ranked six rungs higher.

Singapore coach Annette Bishop was proud of the grit that her charges showed, especially in that final quarter as they were always on high alert for chances to win a turnover.

She said: “It was a really good challenge and the girls put up a great fight. To come from behind, they showed great spirit and I’m proud of the passion showed by everyone on court and the ones on the bench showing their support.

“This was the opener and there was big pressure on them, but it’s a real confidence booster. To be able to come back like that, a lot of teams would have rolled over, but not this side, they fought till the end.”

The match was a thrilling one from the get-go, even after a delay. The opening ceremony, scheduled to start at 2pm, was pushed back by about 30 minutes because of technical issues, in turn delaying the opening match by 10 minutes.

While most teams chatted among themselves, Fiji decided to perform their pre-match ritual, huddling together to sing a Fijian gospel song.

Despite the delay, the players’ spirits were still high when the game started as both Singapore and Ireland took turns converting their centre passes. Little separated them as the first two quarters ended in ties.

But Ireland upped their tempo in the third quarter, while Singapore saw a few passes intercepted and shots missed at crucial moments, allowing the Europeans to lead 38-34 going into the last 15 minutes.

The Singapore bench cheering their teammates on court during the last quarter of their Nations Cup opener against Ireland. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Singapore then reverted to their usual clinical selves, opening up play and making more controlled passes to snatch the win.

Co-captain Toh Kai Wei, who converted 19 of her 30 attempts, admitted she and her teammates were feeling nervous, hence the mistakes, but was glad they pulled through.

“We really wanted to win this first game so, after the third quarter, we settled down a little bit, talked it out and tried to calm down and tackle each ball at a time.

“Going forward, we will definitely work on staying focused and also (having) more control on the shots.”

Yew Shu Ning made several interceptions to help Singapore win 47-45 against Ireland in their Nations Cup opener. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

On Monday (7pm), Singapore will face world No. 15 Fiji, the highest-ranked side in the six-team tournament. Toh, 26, hopes her teammates will stick to their game plan and work as a team to earn another win.

Fiji, comprising mostly players with fewer than 15 caps, lost 60-43 to world No. 31 Botswana, the tournament’s lowest-ranked team, in the second game on Sunday.

Ireland captain Fran Duffy was disappointed by the narrow loss to Singapore but added her teammates learnt a lot from the match and they hope to show improvement for the rest of the week.

They meet Malaysia on Monday (3pm). The 27th-ranked Malaysians lost 51-39 to Singapore “A”, who consist of mainly players from the development squad.

Said Duffy: “Our goal here is to win. We want to build on every performance and learn from each game and add on so that, by the end of the tournament, we’re at our strongest.

“And we just want to enjoy the process.”

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.